In bid to improve Jewish state’s image in India, Israel Month offers cooking lessons and concerts for kids with special needs, cardiac surgery by Israeli doctors
Israeli celebration in Mumbai: Israel Month events are being marked these days in the Indian city, in a bid to brand Israel as an innovative and thriving country, rather than a militant state as viewed on TV.
Activities include performances for Indian orphans and students by Israeli puppet cover group Red Band, medical clowns entertaining children dealing with cancer, Hapoel Tel Aviv coaches training distressed youth, an Israeli chef cooking for street kids and Israeli doctors performing complicated cardiac surgery on children.
The unique celebration was initiated by Israel’s Consul-General in Mumbai Orna Sagiv. The events were launched with visits by two medical clowns to hospitals, an orphanage and a poor neighborhood in the northern part of the city.
Hundreds of Indian students enjoyed a Red Band concert – singing along, dancing and applauding. The band also performed for children suffering from Down’s syndrome and autism, receiving wide media coverage.
The surgeons who operated on the Indian patients came from the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva and included Dr. Eyal Porat, Dr. Viacheslav Bobovnikov and Dr. George Frenkel.
They operated on seven children suffering from serious heart problems. Each surgery was broadcast live to a dozens of heart surgeons from Mumbai.
And since there’s no celebration without Israeli food, Chef Kobi Mizrahi prepared a special gala dinner for guests at the consul-general’s residence and gave children a cooking lesson at a local orphanage.
“The purpose of Israel Month is to increase the Indian audience’s exposure to Israel in Mumbai,” says Consul-General Sagiv.
“So far the activities are receiving a lot of interest and media coverage, and we hope this will help strengthen the bilateral relations between India and Israel, advance the commercial-economic activity of Israeli companies in India and vice versa, and deepen the friendship between the two countries.”
Classroom in new Port-au-Prince school to be named after Israeli actress and model as token of gratitude her voluntary work for earthquake victims
In January 2010 the earth moved in Haiti, leaving more than 230,000 people dead. Another 250,000 were injured.
Israel sent an aid mission to Haiti, which provided medical and humanitarian assistance to the injured and survivors who remained homeless. Another Israeli, actress and model Moran Atias, arrived with an aid delegation from Hollywood led by actor Sean Penn.
Atias volunteered in hospitals and helped care for the earthquake victims. She later helped raise more than $2 million for the construction of a school in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.
Now, as a token of gratitude, the Artists for Peace and Justice organization has decided to name one of the school’s classrooms after Atias. A similar honor has been bestowed on Hollywood actors Clint Eastwood, Penélope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Ben Stiller and Russell Crowe.
“I’m very excited by this move,” says Atias. “It’s a great honor and very exciting news, as far as I’m concerned, to be included in such a list. The school is opening at the city’s poorest neighborhood, but the most important thing is that we managed to save lives.”
The new school is slated to include a music center led by Quincy Jones, who in 1985 produced the USA for Africa project with the “We are the World” album. This time too he will work to raise funds for the victims, and specifically for the new music center.
An Israeli cargo ship unloaded humanitarian aid Friday morning at Port of Mersin, in Turkey, for the victims of the past month’s deadly earthquakes that struck Turkey’s eastern region.
The ship, organized by the Defense Ministry, was carrying mobile homes which will be used to house the thousands of people left homeless following the tremors that struck the area near the city of Van. It docked late Thursday night.
The aid was sent per the request of the government in Ankara and the mobile homes were sufficient to house 1,000 people.
Homelessness became a serious issue in the quake zone as winter temperatures dropped and heavy snows began to fall last week.
The area was hit with a 7.2 magnitude quake in late October which killed 600 people and left thousands homeless.
Less than three weeks later, a second 5.7 erathquake struck 16km south of the city of Van, immediately killing five and burrying scores of victims under rubble.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on a visit to the area following the second quake, was met with with a mix of applause and jeers as he called for unity between the people and authorities working to provide relief.
Chants of “We want tents” could be heard as he began speaking, but there were cheers when he spoke of financial aid.
Erdogan promised permanent housing would be provided for the majority of those needing new homes by August next year, before pleading with people to enter tent camps established to see them through the winter.
Israel sent Turkey aid following the first earthquake to strike the area near Van, once home to nearly 100,000 people. The Defense Ministry sent a number of civilian aircraft to Turkey carrying prefabricated homes, warm blankets, and mattresses.
Turkey failed to soften its language towards Israel following the delivery of that aid, underlining ongoing diplomatic tensions between Jerusalem and Ankara.
Ankara did not comment on the most recent delivery of aid.
Reuters contributed to this report.
The Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the US on Tuesday was set to award an Israeli disaster relief group with a prize for its work in Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake which wreaked havoc in the country earlier this year. The Luminary Award will be given to IsraAid at a ceremony held at the Hilton hotel in New York.
“Five delegations of Israeli doctors and post-trauma specialists have so far treated over 2000 children and hundreds of professionals,” the group said in a press release. “The teams are training local teachers, social workers, nurses, doctors, local community leaders, and private sector representatives in how to cope and help others cope with PTSD – Post Trauma Stress Disorder.”
IsraAid was one of several local and international Jewish and Israeli organizations that mobilized in the wake of the natural disaster which struck the island nation including the government of Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and theJewish community of Tokyo.
Last Wednesday, M. opened the envelope he had waited eight years to receive. Inside was a first sign of life from the parents he left behind in Darfur when he was only 9 years old. M. had made the journey alone from his homeland to Libya, from there to Egypt, and then to Israel. The last time he heard from his mother and father, he told them he was setting out for Israel. But from that point on, he had no knowledge of what had become of his parents or his eight brothers and sisters.
Half a year ago, M. asked Israeli representatives of the International Red Cross for help locating his family. They spent half a year searching for M.’s parents in Sudan, but met with repeated failure.
Then last Wednesday, a Red Cross vehicle arrived outside Gymnasia Herzliya, the Tel Aviv high school where M., now 17, began studying two weeks ago. “We got an answer from Sudan. Your father has written you a letter,” Red Cross official Anna Rivkin told M.
“I want to hear how you are and what your situation is these days,” the letter says. M.’s father wrote that everyone in the family is healthy, that they are hoping to leave the area where they are living soon, and he also requested that his son keep him posted on his situation.
The letter took M. back to the time of his escape, which took years before he arrived in Israel five years ago.
“Sudanese soldiers came into our village, burned it down and killed many people,” M. recalled. “My parents and I fled to a nearby village for a week or two. But then the soldiers came there too.”
M.’s parents proposed he flee Darfur: “When I got to Egypt I met other guys from Eritrea and South Sudan,” he said. “We reached the Bedouin villages and paid money so they would take us across the border. When we came near the border, Egyptian soldiers shot at us from both sides and we had to run between the shots. They shouted at us in Arabic to halt. We thought we were still in Egypt, and that we were done for, but then the soldiers began shooting in the air. We lay down on the ground. It was the Israel Defense Forces. They arrested us and took us to Ketziot Prison.”
M. was released from custody three months later and tried to apply to UN representatives for refugee status. He eventually arrived in Tel Aviv, where he found refuge at a shelter with other Darfurians. “I lived in the shelters for a year, until they agreed to put me in an Education Ministry boarding school in Nes Tziona.”
Two weeks ago, M. enrolled in 10th grade at Gymnasia Herzliya. Without assistance from authorities, M. has been relegated to staying with volunteers from organizations that help refugees. “No authorities are responsible for him,” said his high school principal, Zeev Degani. “Next week we will hold a fund-raiser here. At least we have secured an arrangement for a sandwich at recess.”